At last. After a week of breakfasts at the Bighorn Diner—most excellent breakfasts, Siobhan was willing to own up to—she finally spotted her quarry.
She matched his features to those in the photo cupped in her palm under the table. That was Kerr Mulligan, sure enough.
She was more astonished now than when the Roebucks first showed her the photo. As a rule, pookas in their human form had a horsey look: long faces, long noses, big teeth. Kerr Mulligan was handsome as the Devil himself. He’d cut his sinfully black hair short like the humans did, perhaps to better blend in. Most pookas wore their hair in manes. Kerr had a mane in the picture. She had to admit, this clipped version suited him well. It framed his cheekbones, large eyes and firm chin with its cute little dimple in a way that made her mouth water.
Siobhan took a quick gulp of tea. She wasn’t here to admire the scenery. She was here to hunt.
She did allow herself to admire his easy charm with the locals. He had a smile and a wave and a good word for just about everyone, meaties and grassies alike. A thin smirk touched one side of her mouth. The old Irish charm, that was a pooka’s greatest magic. This horse had it by the tub.
He’d certainly charmed his way into Fawn Roebuck’s knickers, that was for flushing sure. He hadn’t left her pregnant, thank Dog for small favors, but he’d tainted propriety and outraged the family, and the Roebucks would tolerate neither. Not to mention Fawnie’s injured pride. There lay the true heart of the matter, with a dark and deadly beat. No man trifled with Fawn Roebuck’s affections and walked away unscathed, or for long with his apples intact.
Siobhan stared at her target a fraction too long. The fae blood in the pooka’s veins alerted him to hers. He swept a darkened, narrowed stare around the crowded diner, and found her.
Their eyes collided across the width of the room. Siobhan’s psychic senses screamed an alarm.
Kerr Mulligan sipped his coffee, eyeing her over the rim. Abruptly he left his table and started for her booth.
Well, la. She’d expected this. He was Irish, a pooka, and male. Any red-headed lass with a comely face and a healthy bosom was sure to catch his eye, and reel him in like a trout to the lure. She would let him speak first, and from there gauge how best to keep him on the hook.
He slid in opposite her without invitation, still with his coffee mug in hand. “You’re a new face in here,” he remarked.
“And how would you be knowing that?” she said, ladling on the brogue. If he caught even a whiff of her Boston accent he might guess who’d sent her and bolt. “You’ve yet to look at it.”
“New hair,” he corrected himself, hastily yanking his regard upward to the feature in question. “There aren’t many redheads in this town. Two wolves and that’s it.” His nostrils flared like a suspicious stallion’s. “You’re not a wolf?” It was barely a question.
“Terrier,” she lied smoothly. “Are there any rats about? They get my hackles up.”
“Stay away from Rattigan’s, then. The chef’s twice your size and carries a cleaver.”
“I’ll be steering clear. Thanks for the warning.” He watched her own nose work, and seemed to enjoy the sight. “You’re a … ?”
“Deer.” His lie slid off his tongue as easily as hers. As if any deer would have oats on his breath. “More along the elk line. I’m here visiting family. “
“Elk, is it? And with such eyes. I would have taken you for … for …”
Ah, those eyes. Brown with flecks of emerald, like new shoots of grass poking up through the Irish soil. Not that she’d ever seen it in person. Only in dreams.
Her psychic power blatted like an air horn.
“And where would you like to take me?” Kerr prompted.
“Elk, then,” Siobhan said briskly. She diverted herself with a sip of tea to break the pooka’s spell. He hadn’t been born in Ireland any more than she had, but like her he carried magic in his blood. In spades. She would have to be wary.
“Not a hart?” she risked. “A red hart?”
“Irish elk.” Those canny brown eyes betrayed nothing. More quicksand than soil, she decided. A lass could swim in quicksand, if she kept her head. “Funny, you don’t act like a terrier. They’re yappy. You’re a quiet one. Still waters?”
“Deep and deadly.” Siobhan flashed her teeth. “But not to a deer—your pardon, an elk. An elk who seems to have no name, I’m thinking.”
“Kerr,” he answered without hesitation. Thought himself safe, then, here in this mountainy wilderness. “Let me guess. You’re … Meghan? Kathleen?” He snapped his fingers. “Bridget.”
She couldn’t stop a giggle. “Siobhan. Shall I spell it?”
“Don’t bother. At least you’re not Welsh. Welsh spelling always makes my head hurt.” He shook his head, a giveaway. He tossed it as if he still had a mane. “Well, terrier Siobhan, I haven’t had my breakfast yet, and it looks as if you haven’t either. Join me?”
“I should be getting back to work.” Back to Hart’s Desire, to notify the Roebucks the game had been found, and to send their hunter.
He leaned across the table toward her, with a wicked smile more suited to a meatie. “Dinner, then?”
“You’re a fast mover, Mr. Irish Elk.”
“That’s deer for you. We move in leaps and bounds.”
And horses moved at a gallop. This one had a devilish glint in his eye, the stallion with the bit in his teeth. Which bit of her would he want to sink his teeth into, she wondered.
Boston and the Roebucks lay a long ways off. She could hold point a little while longer, before she flushed the quarry for the hunter’s gun.
“Dinner it is,” she agreed. Just in time, she remembered. “Not Rattigan’s.”